How to Become a Cinematographer
A cinematographer makes choices in the lighting, camera angles, and other aesthetic elements that make up a frame, when a motion picture, or movie, is being filmed. In many instances, the role of cinematographer and cameraman, are filled by the one person. To succeed as a cinematographer you'll need to be creative, have a strong interest in cinema and the arts, as well as education in design, photography, and cinematography. A cinematographer is sometimes referred to as a director of photography.
Education Requirements to Become a Cinematographer
Most cinematographers have a college degree with a major in film, or attend a film technical school. Either choice is a good way of beginning your career. It goes without saying, that to become a good cinematographer you will need to watch a lot of movies. Being well versed and having a good knowledge of music and art will also come in handy, as your career progresses you will begin to learn just how interrelated these disciplines are.
One of the most important prerequisites to become a cinematographer is experience, however you don't need to go to college or film school to get it though. Invest in a camera and start making your own films, you can even promote them through the internet if you like. Read books about cinematography, and learn about technical side of the job as well.
If there are production companies nearby, try and gain some work experience there while you are at high school and college. If you can get in with a big company, that's fantastic, but don't overlook the small companies either. There are also other businesses around that will just specialize in certain areas, such as lighting, it's worth trying to get some experience here.
Industry contacts are important to become a cinematographer, and it's never too early to start making them. In a competitive field, you will be hired based on your reputation, so it's important to get to building it early on. Try and meet as many people in the industry as you can, and tell them that you plan to be a cinematographer. Once you have had more experience at college or film school, make a reel of your best shots on a DVD you can give to anyone that you meet.
Cinematographer Job Description
- Working on a film set
- Working with technical filming equipment
- Making choices as to composition and camera angles
- Making choices as to the lighting of a shot
- Making choices as to film type, exposure, and filtration
- Ensuring the aesthetic quality of a film shot
- Ensuring a film shot is true to the style of a film
- Coordinate with camera operators
- Operating a camera
- Operating lighting equipment
- Working closely with a film director
The role of a cinematographer is twofold. The first part of this job is technical, the cinematographer must make choices about lighting an equipment to ensure the shot is clear, and concise. This involves choices of lens, lighting, film types, as well as angles and compositions. They must also coordinate with the director of the film, to make sure the aesthetics of the shot will complement the scene, and the greater ideology of the film. A successful cinematographer needs to have a strong technical knowledge, as well as being creatively gifted.
Cinematographer Salary and Career Path
Most cinematographers will start with entry level jobs that have a greater technical element to them. Working as crew is often how most get their start. After this, with a bit of time and experience you can expect to move onto bigger and better jobs. From here, the sky is the limit. You may even find yourself nominated for an Academy Award one day!
The salary for cinematographers is very varied. When just starting out, you will probably not get paid much at all. However, the top cinematographers make millions. There is no average salary for a cinematographer, as you will get paid for days on set. An entry level cinematographer would make between $200 and $400 a day. The best in the business can take home as much as $10,000 a day.
A career in cinematography is an interesting and challenging one. If you love film and have a creative personality, then you may want to become a cinematographer. Getting as much experience as you can early on is important. While you may have to work for a meager amount for a while, be sure to keep the end result in mind, stay positive, and work hard.
*Salary Information provided by the Bureau Of Labor Statistics